Thousands of women were forced to leave their classrooms after the Taliban took over Afghanistan — and now, months later, they have little hope of resuming studies under the extremist regime. But the president of the University of the People (UoPeople) believes online courses may offer means of reaching them.
This non profit university offers online degrees, and it has already had more than 4,000 applicants to its scholarships launched specifically for Afghans. “Following the Taliban takeover, we announced 1,000 scholarships for Afghans with priority for women,” says Shai Reshef, founder and president of the university. “We were surprised that in mere days we were flooded with applications.”
Roughly 600 of the applicants have started their studies at UoPeople, and Reshef is working on raising the money to offer scholarships to all applicants. “We cannot fathom a world in which the right to education is stripped from Afghans, especially women,” he says. Although Reshef conceded that not all the applicants will graduate — on average, roughly 85 percent of UoPeople students earn diplomas — even a couple of thousand graduates would be significant for Afghanistan.
Before the Taliban takeover last August, the country had low educational attainment, with roughly 10.6 percent of Afghans completing tertiary education in 2020, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
Although UoPeople does not charge for tuition, the scholarships pay for the exam fees required, which cost $2,400 (Rs.1.77 lakh) for an associate degree, $4,800 for a bachelor’s degree and roughly $3,000 for a graduate degree.
Reshef is hopeful that things will improve. “It’s really hard to tell how Afghanistan will look in a few years,” he says, adding that the Taliban regime was overthrown before — something that could happen again. “If and when it happens, we will have a cadre of educated people who will be able to move their society forward.”